New York Casino Bidders Lack Backup Plans

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For many of the companies attempting to procure one of the three downstate gaming permits New York will eventually award, it’s “casino or bust.”

Times Square in New York City. Bidders for casino licenses in the city don’t have backup plans. (Image: Eater New York)

Said another way, there are not backup plans and the vast majority of the firms vying for those licenses are unlikely to do anything of note with their selected sites should they not emerge successful in winning those permits.

A new article by Kathryn Brenzel of The Real Deal notes that New York City-area casino contenders such as New York Mets owner Steve Cohen and real estate developer SL Green are currently mum on alternatives should they not win one of the casino licenses. Cohen is partnering with Hard Rock International on the $8 billion Metropolitan Park plan, which includes a gaming venue, across from Citi Field. SL Green is working with Caesars Entertainment and Jay-Z on casino hotel plan for Times Square.

The dearth of Plan B’s jibes with commentary from industry executives suggesting that without casinos, New York developments aren’t worth it for them. Last year, Las Vegas Sands CEO Rob Goldstein and Hard Rock CEO Jim Allen told CNBC that given the multi-billion investments required in New York, it’d be difficult to impossible to generate adequate return on investment without gaming venues.

Some Possibilities for New York Casino Backup Plans

Not all of the entities competing for the three casino licenses lack alternatives. It’s possible that if MGM Resorts International’s Empire City Casino and Genting’s Resorts World New York in Queens don’t win traditional casino permits, those properties will continue operating as slots-only venues.

Specific to Related Cos., which is working with Wynn Resorts to potentially bring a casino hotel to the Hudson West area of Hudson Yards, that real estate developer could follow through on plans to develop that property, including cost-effective residential housing, without a gaming venue.

The Real Deal reported that a “plan B” for Cohen and Hard Rock should State Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Queens) balk at introducing legislation to transfer the parkland designation off Willets Point — the desired casino site — could be pushing another policymaker to bring a related bill to the floor.

The Real Deal also noted that Silverstein Properties hasn’t publicly mentioned alternatives for a proposed casino site at 41st Street and 11th Avenue, though it’s possible that property would be suitable for residential development. Likewise, Thor Equities, which is eyeing Coney Island for a gaming venue, could opt to develop or sell that land if it doesn’t win one of the three permits.

There’s Time to Form New York Casino Backup Plans

In recent weeks, it’s become clear that New York regulators are unlikely to make final decisions on the downstate casino licenses until late 2025 or even early the following year. While that’s to the chagrin of industry executives who are frustrated with the process, that extended timeline could work in favor of operators attempting to develop alternative plans.

It could also present developers and operators more time with which to assess the viability of their bids and whether or not they want to proceed with spending on plans that might not ultimately pay dividends.

Though it hasn’t said as much, Bally’s is an example of a gaming company that checks one or both of those boxes. Last year, the regional casino operator acquired the lease rights to the golf course formerly known as Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point in the Bronx with the hopes of eventually building a casino hotel there. In order for that bid to have a chance of succeeding, Bally’s needs the parkland designation of that property to change. However, at least one large investor is encouraging the operator to scuttle its New York ambitions as an avenue for preserving capital.

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